Engaging Deception

Book Three in The Joplin Chronicles

A lively competition draws her into her rival’s blueprints–and maybe even his heart.

Olive Kentworth has spent her life hiding her interest in architecture, even though she pores over architectural books and sketches buildings. When she accepts a job on a home expansion, it’s only because her cousin Amos agrees to pose as the builder. To further hide her involvement, Olive takes a position as a nanny–not knowing that she’ll be working for her idol, Joplin’s leading architect, widower Maxfield Scott.

Maxfield is intrigued by his new nanny–she makes his home and his life bearable again. His work, on the other hand, is a disaster. An untrained builder is remodeling a completed project of his. What’s worse, Maxfield’s current client wants changes to his plans because of that builder’s work.

As the architectural one-upmanship heats up, Olive’s involvement becomes harder to hide. Will the relationship between her and Maxfield survive, or will they both miss out on building something for their future?

Self-taught architect Olive Kentworth bristles against the sexism of 19th-century Missouri in the winning third entry in Jennings’s Joplin Chronicles series (after Proposing Mischief). Olive longs to be accepted as an architect and pounces on the opportunity to design an expansion on the Blount family’s house, which was originally designed by renowned architect Max Scott. To be taken seriously, she enlists the help of her male cousin and submits her work under his name. Meanwhile, Olive reluctantly agrees to babysit two young children only to learn that they belong to Max, who obliges when Olive picks his brain about his library and work. The stakes escalate after a prominent family hires Max to build them a house larger than the Blounts’, igniting a heated battle to build the biggest home in town. Then Max learns that Olive has been drawing her cousin’s blueprints and she, embarrassed, hides out at her family’s farm until her grandmother counsels her that God wouldn’t have given her a gift for architecture without giving her the courage to use it. Olive’s story of overcoming the biases of her community inspires, and readers will appreciate the message that “God is right there beside you in a hundred different ways.” Series fans will be pleased. 

Olive Kentworth dreams of being an architect, but after years of caring for her dying mother, she prefers dreaming in secret to avoid the pain of rejection and the overwhelming pressure of recognition. Instead, her cousin Amos carries out her successful designs in the Joplin community. When renowned architect and widower Maxfield Scott hires Olive as a nanny for his two children, he never expected the healing that her quiet compassion brings to his home. But he also does not realize that the woman quickly claiming his heart is also the unknown builder behind the design about to damage his career. Jennings concludes her delightful Joplin Chronicles with a historical romance about taking risks in life and love. Olive is one of Jennings’ more subtle heroines, who brilliantly confronts the internal and external challenges forever confronting women who pursue the unconventional. The novel’s design motif engages with the characters’ Christian faith and grief, offering compelling reflection on how a loving God can use difficult trials to build a life of value. — Kate Campos

Starred Review – Shy, homebody Olive Kentworth is struggling to find purpose after the death of her mother. What she really wants to do is design buildings, but in the rowdy early 20th-century mining town of Joplin, MO, women aren’t expected to do things like that. When her boisterous cousins push her to nanny for the renowned architect Maxfield Scott, she hides her true devotion to architecture. The more she secretly works on designs, though, the more Olive realizes that the world isn’t as scary as she’d imagined. Meanwhile, Maxfield is out on the town every night trying to bury memories of his late wife with trips to the opera. As both wind up on competing projects, Maxfield realizes his true treasure may lie closer to home. VERDICT Hilarious misunderstandings and secrets abound in this humorous, action-packed romance. Jennings (Proposing Mischief) brings out the best in the historical Christian romance genre, and this is a satisfying conclusion to her trilogy that can easily be read as a stand-alone.

-Christine Barth

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